Okay, let’s get a few things out of the way first. I’m going to give this 5 out of 5 Nerdskulls. If that’s what you were waiting on to make a decision, stop reading right now, go out to your nearest video game retailer, and pick up this gem of a game. Second of all, this review is late because there’s no point in reviewing a game half-way through. Being the diligent gamer that I am, I played this game twice over to make sure I gave you the best possible review. Yes, I subjected myself to an entire second play-through for you. You’re welcome.
For those of you still reading (really, why aren’t you playing this game yet?), let me give you a few more reasons to dig on Bioshock Infinite.
Like resident Nerd, Brandon, I am also a Bioshock fan. Bioshock was one of the first games of this current console generation that convinced me we’d truly moved into a new generation of gaming. Where other titles had upped the ante with graphics, online gameplay, or sheer size, the original Bioshock elevated the core elements of gaming on all fronts. It wrapped a Hollywood-worthy narrative, rich in meaning and depth, in superb, revolutionary gameplay. It was a fantastic experience through and through.
For the sake of brevity, let’s say that Bioshock 2, for whatever reason, failed to deliver the same impact. It was more Bioshock, which was not bad, really. I mean, Irrational did a bang up job with their sequel, it just wasn’t as “wow” as the original.
Now, years later, after several very necessary delays, we’ve been given Bioshock Infinite. In it, you play the role of the mysterious, ex-Pinkerton, Booker Dewitt who has been contracted to retrieve Elizabeth, the daughter of wackadoo “prophet” Zachary Comstock, leader and founder of the floating city of Columbia. From the very first five minutes of the game, you’re throw headfirst into mystery. Who are you? Who hired you? Who are the man and woman that drop you off at your destination? What the hell happened at that lighthouse? Why are you still reading this and not playing this game?
Infinite is as much a game about self discovery as much as it is an action mystery title. Rather than venture through a dilapidated city, post-fall (like Bioshock’s Rapture), you’re encouraged to explore the living, breathing, gorgeous floating city of Columbia. A City caught in mid-revolution, Columbia is at one moment picturesque and idyllic, and the next a harsh, ugly, and disturbing example of the dark side of humanity (and history, for that matter). Ken Levine and his team did a phenomenal job of capturing both facets of the city and creating such an immersive experience, that it’s truly disturbing when you realize that this city, the same city had you smiling and marveling at its beauty and charm two minutes ago, is actually home to the type of person you’d move away from if you sat next to them on an airplane. I can’t say more without giving away some spoilers
Still reading? Okay, let’s talk about gameplay.
The power-in-one-hand-and-gun-in-the-other gameplay of the Bioshock series remains intact. If you’ve played Bioshock before, you’ll feel right at home. New to Infinite, however, is the Skyhook, a device that allows you to hook onto a series of elevated rails floating high above the city and zip back and forth from place to place. The Skyhook isn’t only for zip-lining, though. It’s also one of the most brutal weapons in video games today. Seriously. Ironically, pre-release marketing footage of the Skyhook in use made it seem as if Infinite was “Bioshock on rails.” The truth is that, the Skyhook makes the game anything but.
The Skyhook actually adds a layer of depth and complexity to nearly every battle encounter, allowing you to either take the fight to the sky or keep the battle on the ground where cover plays a larger role. Once you partner with Elizabeth (not a spoiler! that was revealed pre-release), the depth and complexity of battle increases 5-fold. Her ability to open “Tears” in space and time, allow you to pull things in from alternate realities that can do anything from help in battle, provide cover, or even replenish ammo, Salts, and health.
Oh, and did I mention that she occasionally gives you freebies during gameplay? Need some cash? No worries, Elizabeth’s got a few coins for you!
Still here? Alrighthy, then. How about we talk about graphics?
Truth be told, Bioshock Infinite doesn’t really do much to push the visual envelope from a technical perspective. (Full disclosure: I played it on the Xbox 360). Don’t get me wrong, Columbia is gorgeous! Infinite’s design aesthetic is beautiful and engrossing, in a dark Disney’s Main Street sort of way, but you never look at Infinite’s graphics and think, “man, I’ve never seen graphics like this! They’re really pushing the hardware to the limits.” But the truth is, it doesn’t have to in order to create a vibrant world full of nuance and nostalgia at the same time. In fact, you’ll frequently find yourself stopping to gasp at the gorgeous vistas or small, subtle touches of charm in nearly every level.
If you don’t gasp in amazement when you fight off your first automatronic George Washington, then you’ll giggle with glee when you stop and listen to a live barbershop quartet sing the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.” Yes, that happens.
Okay, how about this? You’ll see a reference to Revenge of the Jedi, you’ll hear Cindy Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” see references to Disneyland, use the Konami code, and all kinds of other hidden Easter Eggs. There might even be some references to the original Bioshock.
Now do yourself a favor, stop reading, get your car keys and go pick this game of the year contender right now.
Bioshock Infinite easily deserves 5 out of 5 Nerdskulls as well as two solid play-throughs from everyone on the planet.
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Produced By: 2K Games and Irrational Games
Director: Ken Levine
Writer: Ken Levine
Starring: Troy Baker, Courtnee Draper, Oliver Vaquer